Usefully faster than predecessors, particularly the 550i, and refined. But we’d probably still go for a 535d.

DON’T REALLY fancy an M5? Or, more likely, can’t afford one, can’t stomach the waiting list or need the versatility of an estate? Then give one of these a go

Well, maybe the 362bhp 550i at least, which has just replaced the (333bhp) 545i in BMW’s range and is less than 40bhp shy of the M-Sport car (before you press the Power button).

Advantages? It’s quite fast enough, the 4.8-litre V8 doesn’t sound like a diesel at idle, and you can have a normal six-speed manual or proper automatic gearbox (£1450), rather than the best-of-neither-world automated manual of the M-car. And, at £43,550 in SE trim (£45,750 in natty M-Sport form, which adds aluminium and Alcantara to the inside, a bodykit and ride-stuffing 18-inch alloys to the outside), it’s usefully cheaper. Plus, for an extra £2025, you can get an estate.

Disadvantages? Well, let’s not kid ourselves, this does not deliver the astonishment, involvement or cross-country rapidity of the M5. But it’s still good fun: reasonably agile and nimble, with responsive steering and high grip levels.

It’s also extremely refined: very quiet and with a remarkably comfortable cabin. The engine’s a corker, too, with decent pull even from low revs and a broad powerband. It is also hushed when cruising, and pleasingly growly on full throttle.

Much the same can be said about the cheaper 540i, which replaces the 535i. It’s just as entertaining and refined, only a bit slower, obviously, and oddly it’s only available as a saloon. The six-speed manual and auto ’box options remain.

A 540i will cost you £36,985 in SE trim; M-Sport spec adds £2625 and the same goodies as it does in the 550i.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

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IainStirling 26 September 2009

Re: BMW 550i M Sport

Steelydan wrote:
Or get a second hand one for just over £20k...bargain...
Steely, what an absolute bargain. 10% cheaper than a new Golf GTi and an incomparably better car! (p.s. looks like the link also shows your postcode).

JohnMensah 26 September 2009

Re: BMW 550i M Sport

Do you have any used BMW 5.25 sports cars?